I was born the youngest of six children to an Austrian machinist and a German house wife. Ten days after I was born my father was killed in a car accident, leaving my mother with no job, or any potential means of income and six children to raise. My mom received a small settlement from the accident as it was not his fault, but otherwise he carried no life insurance and they had no savings. My mum was able to purchase the home we lived in but otherwise the small amount of money remaining was used used up while she waited to become eligible for social assistance.

It wasn’t easy growing up relatively poor, we lived in a very affluent mining town. Even raising a family on one miner’s income, a family could do pretty well. Most of my friends had two parents working and were never really wanting for anything. I say this not because I was so jealous of them (well, maybe a little), but to say that I really didn’t feel particularly disadvantaged.  I know it wasn’t easy for my mum, but she never complained about her lot in life, and just went about doing what she needed to do. We all made it out of our childhood relatively unscathed.

Each of my siblings leads a descent middle class lifestyle with the exception of my eldest brother who’s mentally challenged. There was really nothing stopping us from excelling at life when we chose to. I like to think of myself as a relatively intelligent person, but I couldn’t have made it to where I am today without a lot of help as well as a large amount of good fortune. Having a strong social safety net is what allowed me to achieve my goals in spite of any financial hardship my family suffered.

If we fast forward to today, I don’t think that people are getting the same opportunities. The cost of living is skyrocketing at the same time that families are bringing in less and less money. For those now trying to survive on social assistance the situation is becoming grimmer by the day. Governments around the world are attempting to reign in their spending and seem bent on doing so at the expense of the poor. To bring their deficits under control simply by cutting benefits, both individual and institutional, they run the risk of creating a class system  that in the end will benefit no one but the super rich.

As I said, my eldest brother is mentally challenged. He receives a small disability pension from the government which really on its own does not provide enough for him to survive. I purchased an apartment condo for him for which he pays me way less than market rent. If it wasn’t for this, I don’t know where he could afford to live. Fortunately I can afford to help him out and really don’t mind doing so, but not everyone is so lucky. The same goes for paying taxes. I should pay more in tax because I can afford to, and I’m sick of hearing peers complain of having to pay so much in taxes.

If we need to cut our deficits so that society can function now and into the future, then the people who benefit most from society, should be happy to pay their fair share to make it work. Not everyone who is a recipient of welfare is a lazy freeloader as many try to argue. If we continue to cut the benefits to the disadvantaged, cut education funding, reduce health care funding, we will all be left with an ugly, sterile, dangerous society that we will all be worse off for.

Your Fool


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